ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Raheel Sharif has stressed upon cancelling the national identity cards given illegally to Afghan refugees first before launching the much-delayed population count in Pakistan.
In a letter to the federal government, the chief of army staff has warned in a letter that a census without cancelling the CNICs of Afghan refugees will adversely affect the ethnic profile of Balochistan.
This was revealed in a concise statement submitted by the Statistics Division in the Supreme Court, which has taken suo motu notice of the inordinate delay in census due since 2008. The case will be taken up today.
A census after every 10 years is a constitutional obligation of the federal government. Pakistan may be among one of a few developing countries which has not conducted a census in the past 18 years. The last census was held in 1998.
Earlier this year, the government had postponed the census on the pretext of unavailability of an adequate number of soldiers to ensure the security of the census staff.
On Thursday, Additional Attorney General Waqar Rana submitted a concise statement on behalf of the federal government, stating the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Statistics Division was in touch with the defence authorities for the availability of army personnel.
The PBS statement includes reference to the letter from the COAS Secretariat, GHQ, saying many Afghans were in possession of Pakistani CNICs, which should be cancelled before a census.
According to the PBS, approximately 167,000 military personnel are required for man-to-man deployment apart from the command structure and security arrangements. The defence authorities had responded that availability of soldiers could only be ensured once the security situation in the country improved.
“As soon as the availability of army personnel is ensured, the PBS will conduct the census in the country as per the schedule approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI),” the letter stated.
The PBS has held meetings with the chief secretaries of Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to take them on board while meetings with other stakeholders are in pipeline, the reply to the SC said.
The statistics bureau is also exploring other possible alternatives. In this context, an international conference will be held late July, where speakers will share methods of holding census in difficult areas.
The PBS statement further said the population count was the biggest peace-time logistical exercise involving mobilisation of about 200,000 staff, including 167,000 enumerators one for each block and their supervisory tiers.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2016.